Do you think kids should be wrapped in bubbles? Are you a helicopter parent? Do you “hover” over and around your kids in an attempt to protect them from the odd scratch, some dirt and the “wrong” 3 year old crowd? Well in a bid to get your kids out there playing freely, sans hand-sanitizer, leash and mobile phone, Lenore Skenazy (controversial novelist, columnist and mother) has declared May 22nd “Take your children to the park and leave them there day!”
On her Free Range Kids website, Lenore writes:
If our goal is to get kids back outside (it is), and playing together (it is), and for parents to relax (it is), and to start creating community again (it sure is!!!), then “Take Our Children to the Park… And Leave Them There Day” is a great first step.Across the country — what the heck, across the world — parents will converge upon local playgrounds and parks with their school-age kids. They will tell them to have fun, make friends and don’t leave with anyone. Then the parents will wave goodbye and the kids will amuse themselves for whatever amount of time they’ve decided with their folks. An hour. A morning. Or maybe even just half an hour, to get used to the whole thing, which, admittedly, sounds radical. But is it?
The crime rate in America is back to where it was in the early ’70s. Crime was going up then, and it peaked around 20 years later. By the mid ’90s it was coming down and continues to do so. So the strange fact — very hard to digest — is that if YOU were playing outside in the ’70s or ’80s, your kids today are safer than you were! I know it doesn’t feel that way. In fact, here’s an interesting poll about how the majority of people feel crime is going up when actually its going down. But anyway, the point is:
Most of us used to play outside in the park, without our parents, without cell phones, without Purell or bottled water and we survived! Thrived! We cherish the memories! And if you believe the million studies that I’m always publishing here, kids are healthier, happier and better-adjusted if they get to spend some time each day in “free play,” without adults hovering.
I know there will be shrill voices insisting, “Predators are gonna love this holiday!” but keep a level head. Crime is down. Awareness is up. There is safety in numbers, which means getting kids outside again, together. This won’t happen until we actually start DOING IT.
So spread the word and be not afraid. Free-Range Kids never says there is no risk in the world, only that the risk is small and worth taking, as it always has been. The trade-off is kids who make up games, who solve problems, who discover nature and get moving (to coin a phrase). Kids who don’t need a screen to entertain them. Playing outside, on their own, is what kids all over the world do. We have forgotten how vital and wonderful it is.
Walk around your neighborhood. Do you see empty sidewalks? Empty yards? Empty playgrounds? It’s a waste — of childhood. Let’s bring it back, starting on May 22.
Is old-school parenting really back? Would you describe your own upbringing as free-range? Mine was. Lots of time running around the street and roller skating on the (gasp) road. If my own children tried to do either, I would, of course, freak.
If you have kids, would you describe your approach as being more ‘free-range’ or more ‘helicopter’?
Thanks Chas and thanks Danielle